We Interrupt this Poker Blog…

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”
–Winston Churchill
It’s finally done. After 5 months of hard work, the “side project” I’ve been working on is finally complete. And I think it was worth all the hard work, and I hope it will help all of you loyal readers out there. Before I unveil the details of the project, I think an explanation of how the creation and development of this project is in order.
Back in early 2004, I was using Poker Tracker heavily to review my own play as well as to track the play of my opponents. Since the program was relatively new, I spent a lot of time tweaking the settings and experimenting with different techniques to get the most out of the software. After a while, I’d come up with a standard routine for analyzing my play, and was able to cut my “post-session analysis” with Poker Tracker down to about 10 minutes. Basically after every session, I’d go through a standard process of hand analysis, and it seemed like this was the best way to review my play and learn from my mistakes.
However, I wasn’t sure if I was missing out on any of Poker Tracker’s many features, so I began talking to other Poker Tracker users to find out what they were up to. One online poker veteran had a lot to say on this subject, and forced me to rethink some of what I had been doing. Many phone conversations and instant messages later, both Iggy and I had refined our analysis methods, and I felt that my time with Poker Tracker was more productive.
In August, my protege (the infamous Monk, who is now crushing the shorthanded games and has graduated from my tutelage) dedicated himself to improving his game. The first thing we did was sit down and analyze his 20,000 hand histories in Poker Tracker, pinpointing leaks and weaknesses in his game. I used the same analysis methods for Monk’s hands as I had been for my own, and soon Monk started playing better– tighter and more aggressive. We fell into a weekly routine where he would email me a batch of hand histories and I’d use Poker Tracker to figure out what he wrong (and occasionally what he did right). His play improved dramatically.
Iggy and I received many requests from Poker Tracker users to help them understand some of the more advanced features the software offered, and we were usually able to help. The Poker Tracker help guide covered the basics, but didn’t explain techniques for advanced analysis such as leak-finding and breaking down your play by position.
It seemed that despite the power of the software, many users were too busy to really get “under the hood” and figure out the tricks to making Poker Tracker work for them. The requests for a “Guide to Poker Tracker” kept coming in, and I started to think that there might actually be enough demand to make this something worth putting some serious thought to.
In September, Iggy and I decided that we were going to devote some serious time and effort into developing an advanced manual for Poker Tracker. I dove into the analysis, and came up with an outline for a book that would help poker players extract the most value out of Poker Tracker, and help improve their online game.
As if writing weekly blog posts wasn’t enough, I now had some serious writing on my shoulders. Not only would it require all of my poker knowledge and experience, but there were some serious statistical challenges as well. Sample size is always an issue in poker, and when trying to come up with rules of thumb, a good poker player always has the mantra “It Depends” in the back of his mind. Balancing general rules and situation specific thinking was our biggest challenge, and I spent many hours experimenting with different rules and configuration parameters before arriving at results that I considered satisfying. After that I needed to offer a concise explanation of WHY I chose the parameters I did.
Another challenge with the guide was trying to offer something to the readers already making heavy use of the software. What could we offer to the “expert” Poker Tracker user? Our guide offers many tips and tricks that the average player doesn’t know about, but I wanted to come up with something that even Poker Tracker experts would find worth their time and money.
One of Poker Tracker’s newer features was the “auto rate” players functionality, which allows the user to “label” opponents based on hand histories for their opponents. I found this feature to be the most valuable in Poker Tracker– before choosing a table, you could quickly see the types of players that were sitting at the table. Not only was this a huge help in table selection, but it allowed me to increase my win rate by making tough laydowns and difficult calls based on the auto rate information I had about my opponent during a hand.
2+2 guru BisonBison realized this, and offered a superb post with a generic set of auto rate rules. These rules were great, and offered me a great starting point for developing my own set of rules.
Many sleepless nights later, I had come up with a set of rules that I felt comfortable with. I remember one night, drawing 3-dimensional graphs on my whiteboard in the glow of my laptop. I nearly gave up, thinking that a good set of rules was impossible to come up with. But eventually I was able to condense the set of variables and come up with a set of auto rate rules that seemed to make sense for most opponents. I ran them by Iggy and several other excellent players, and after some experimentation, I was told that the rules were in fact extremely useful. It looked like all those stat classes I took as an undergrad had finally produced something useful.
The auto rate rules are just one component of the book, but I think they are one of the book’s most useful offerings. More important than the actual rules, the book offers a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind them, allowing readers to develop their own set of rules that fits their style of play. Or you can just plug them in and use them, they’ve worked well for me.
After 4 months, I’d finally come up with something that I felt like was both useful and original. But was it good enough for the masses of Poker Tracker users?
Now that the book was looking something like a book, it was time to see what serious online players thought of it. We recruited some of the best minds in poker blogging to review the book, and got some great feedback. There were numerous suggestions on improvements, but overall, they loved it. Even Pat, the creator of the Poker Tracker software, gave it a big thumbs up. Iggy and I breathed a collective sigh of relief, and prepared for the final stages of publication: creating a website and handling all of the fun little things that are involved with publishing an e-book.
So here we are, ready to stick our necks out and give birth to our creation. I’m a little nervous about how it will be received, but I can happily say that I did my best to create something that is helpful to students of the game. The ideas in the book have resulted in me winning many more big bets than I would have without them, and I strongly believe they will do the same for you.
Remember that the book is a work in progress. Neither Iggy nor I have ever done anything like this, so there are sure to be places where the book can be improved. After all, we are poker players, not publishers. But what we’re giving you is worth the asking price: at $20, our book only needs to help you win 20 big bets at $.50-1. I’m pretty sure it can do that.
We are always glad to get feedback and will be constantly working to improve the book. We believe that this book will make you a better poker player and over the long run, help to build your bankroll.
Now go check out the site, and see what I’m talking about: http://www.pokertrackerguide.com.
Much thanks for reading and for all your support.

The Poker Wilderness: More Tales from Commerce Casino

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.”
–Alan Alda
Fret not gentle reader, although I’ve grown a bit slack in my blog postings, yours truly has been hard at work on my “side project”. I’ve mentioned this a few times previously, and I’m happy to report that this project is finally complete. Check back in a couple days for the story of how this project came to be, how it will help your game, and how to get it. I’ve put a lot of thought, time, and effort into it, so hopefully it’ll translate into some profit and poker knowledge for all of you loyal readers out there. More in a few days about that.
The last couple weeks at Full Tilt Poker have been very busy, and it’s been a lot of fun hobnobbing with some of poker’s big names. The people there are great and extremely dedicated to making the site better, and I really believe we’re going to be the best in the online poker business. All we need is to fill up the barrel with some more fish, and from what I’ve seen, the dead money is starting to filter in. I highly recommend the .5-1, 1-2, and 2-4 no limit games, where the max buy in is 100 times the big blind, allowing you to actually push people off hands and do some bluffing. Contrast this to the PartyEmpire no-limit games where you’re only allowed 50x the BB, which puts a crimp in your style if you like to play serious no limit poker. But I suppose I’m a bit biased.
Let’s start with a quick review of my time at the tables, which has been exclusively at the Commerce Casino over the past couple weeks. The LA Poker Classic has brought everybody and their mama to Commerce, as the World Poker Tour seems to be a magnet for all things poker. It seems that anyone who’s ever been in front of a camera on a poker show can be found wandering around the high-limit section at Commerce if they’re not still alive in the tournament upstairs.
Last weekend, The Film Geek was kind enough to pick me up at my new apartment (Mrs. Double and I have almost finished unpacking after 3 weeks) and make the drive to Commerce. We’d planned to meet the infamous Bill Rini for dinner at 7 before hitting the tables. One problem: FG was stuck in a production meeting, and managed to take a wrong turn along the way, arriving almost two hours late.
After convincing myself that I really should spend some time sharpening up my no-limit game (I’m almost exclusively play limit), I reluctantly decided to play the super-soft $200 buy in no-limit game, and 3 players at my table had over $1500 in front of them. I felt better about passing up the amazing $20-40 game in the next room– if you looked closely, you could actually see the gills pulsating on the necks of the $20-40 players every time they cold called a raise preflop. But every week I see tight players taking 3 or 4 racks of yellow chips (each rack is worth $500) out of this game, and it seemed a shame to be missing out on this. I was not so fortunate, and didn’t get much in the way of cards for a couple hours. But with some bluffing and a couple monster hands, I managed to work my stack up to $500 by about 3 AM on Saturday night.
And then I made my “one big mistake” that I invariably seem to make playing no limit, and lost my entire stack by overplaying Aces against a guy who’d flopped a set of 4s. I guess that’s how you learn, right? Anyway, I managed to win back my losses after changing tables and tripling up at Film Geek’s table. My Aces held up this time, and managed to get me even for the night. My favorite hand of the night, however, came earlier against a middle aged asian man who stared me down for longer than anyone ever has in my life. It went something like this:
I’ve got A3h in middle position, and raise it preflop when it’s folded to me. I was trying to establish a loose aggressive image and felt like I could outplay the maniac in the small blind and the tight middle aged asian guy (MAAG) in the big blind. Everyone folded, and the maniac and MAAG called, so I got what I wanted. The flop came queen high, and both players checked to me. I bet the pot, resolving to fire again on the turn if both players checked again. Maniac folded, but MAAG reluctantly called. The turn was a Jack, and both players checked. I bet the pot and the action was on MAAG. MAAG goes deep into the tank… and I mean REALLY deep. After about a minute of staring at me, he begins looking around at the other players.
MAAG: “I think he’s bluffing.”
MAAG: “What do you guys think?”
(no answer)
MAAG: “But maybe he’s got it.”
MAAG: “Let me get a better look at you.”
(attempts Lederer stare, I stare back amazed)
MAAG: (to maniac) “Do you think he’s bluffing?”
Maniac: “I have no idea.”
MAAG: (looks at short stack) “I think he is. But this is all I have!”
HDouble: “Call then.” (puts on sunglasses)
(MAAG flips over Ace-King)
HDouble: “You’re going to call me with Ace high?”
MAAG: “Take off your sunglasses.”
(HDouble takes off glasses, stares into MAAG’s soul)
(MAAG stares at cards for a long, long time, and finally mucks)
(HDouble Gleefully flips over A3)
MAAG: “You’ve got a good poker face.”
Film Geek somehow managed to get a clock on this whole drama, and confirmed that it took 8 minutes. 8 minutes! Probably the most amazing thing about the whole thing is that not a single player at the table called the clock on the guy. Maybe because it was 4 AM. You just can’t beat the characters at Commerce.
Last night I headed back for more, but I chose to stomp in more comfortable grounds, the $20-40 game. The game was unbelievably good, with 6 players seeing the flop for 2 bets routinely. I found myself rivered by hands such as 43o and 32s (I lost with KK to these hands on the river in monster pots), and was in pretty deep. But I managed to claw my way back and the variance finally swung my way and managed to end up a meager 5 big bets after a grueling 8 hour session. Phil and The Film Geek were there for moral support, periodically checking in from their NL game.
My favorite lines of the night:
–Middle aged guy sits to my left. After one orbit, he whispers to me:
“I haven’t been here in a couple years. This game is unbelievable! It’s like a $2-4 game!”
Me: “Yeah, I guess it’s the whole TV thing.”
Him: “Where do these people get this kind of money?”
Me: “Real Estate?”
Him: “Ahh, yeah, probably.”
–Middle aged woman gets Aces cracked in monster pot. A few hands later she puts her last 8 big bets in the pot that is capped 3 way preflop. Monster pot and a raise war breaks out between two players. She’s trapped in between and gets all in on the turn and runner-runners a straight with no draw on the flop. She beats a set and a pair of kings. The table groans in pain and someone asks how she could call on the flop.
“What, I was going all in no matter what! No one felt bad when I got rivered with Aces!”
Me: “I felt bad!”
Her: “I didn’t mean you!”
–Another middle aged woman has been getting bad beat all night. She remained pleasant however, and even gushed about her conversation with Fossilman in the top section minutes before. In the hand above, it was her flopped set of 8s that got rivered. Her pleasant demeanor immediately vanishes when the other woman shows her straight, and she stands up and turns into the Hulk.
“UN-F**KING-BELIEVABLE! THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” (Commerce’s new policy is to kick you out for cursing) “THIS F**KING GAME IS A JOKE! (pause) YOU WANT TO KICK ME OUT FOR SWEARING??? I DON’T GIVE A F**K!” (the table stares appalled, but no floormen seem to care. She anticlimactically exits in a huff)
So, the games at Commerce have been great but yours truly could only squeeze 5 big bets out of the variance monster. I’ll take it.
The high limit section was rockin, with Doyle ruling over the 2000-4000 game roped off in the corner. The WPT tourney was going on upstairs, and I checked in a few times to see some intense action amongst the best in the world. Toughest lineup I saw: Andy Bloch, Erick Lindgren, and Ted Forrest sitting next to each other at the same table. Murderer’s row.
Check out the chip counts and tourney updates at Poker Wire.
I got a chance to chat with mighty Max Pescatore after his Aces got cracked by Erick Lindgren’s QT when Lindgren was in the big blind with a big stack. Max finished 66th out of 538 of the world’s best, but he wasn’t too down, since he had just won 3rd place in the Best All-Around Player category after two fourth place finishes in the LA Poker Classic. He was headed to blow off some steam at the Chinese Poker tables when we chatted, and he clearly has the right perspective on being a professional poker player. Disappointed about getting his Aces cracked, I consoled him by reminding him how well he had been playing. “Yeah, the results will take care of themselves. What matters is that I’m having fun and playing well.” Check out Max’s Poker Blog for his tournament tales from the past couple of weeks.
A couple quick links. I came across this article and thought it was very relevant to poker:
Science Points to a Sixth Sense
It looks like Doyle was right after all. Although the headline is a bit silly, the important thing about the study is that it confirmed that the human pattern recognition capability goes beyond our ability to explicitly capture what we are doing:
“It appears that this part of the brain is somehow figuring out things without you necessarily having to be consciously aware of it.”
I’ve been arguing for a while that “card sense” and “poker instinct” is little more than this ability to “figure out” the interaction between board cards, betting patterns, and tells. Maybe this study lends a bit of credence to this idea.
Second, be sure to check out my man Dan Mezick’s (creator of Primate Poker) 2+2 post, The Psychology of Full Immersion (thanks to Bill for the link). Dan breaks down a poker player’s commitment to the game into 5 levels, and as usual, is right on the money.
Alright, it’s back to work on the finishing touches on the Side Project. Check back in a couple of days for more details…

Odds and Ends

“Odds and ends, odds and ends
Lost time is not found again”

–Bob Dylan
Loyal readers will see this post and think, “Wow, 2 posts in 3 days! Hdub, are you sick?” Alas, my frequency of posts diminished from 2 or 3 times a week to a single post on the weekends in recent months. Part of this was due to various committments, but the main reason for the decrease in word output was due to the fact that the lightbulb moments have been few and far between as far as poker theory goes. My poker thinking has plateaued for a while, probably because I haven’t been able to put in as much time at the tables.
Hopefully that is changing, as I’m getting settled in to my new job and new apartment. Lots of changes in the life of yours truly, and so far the changes are for the better. One of my favorite sayings of an old poker sage is: “in poker, stasis = death”. I think that holds true beyond poker, and I’m excited to have created an opportunity to escape what was becoming a static life.
The first change was a quick one– with the help of faithful compadre M (aka Bad Luck Shleprock and Casey Affleck for the loyal readers), Mrs. Double and I were able to move everything in our 1 bedroom apartment in a total span of 4 hours. Granted, the move was only 6 miles (from Hollywood to Westwood for those of you that know the area), but racing against the UHaul clock (the truck had to be back at 4:30, before closing, 4 hours after I picked it up) was tougher than watching Phil Hellmuth brush his teeth. Fortunately, this is not a moving blog, so let’s move on…
The first week at Full Tilt Poker was extremely busy but refreshing. As you’d expect, the people working there are all extremely dedicated and hard-working. And yes, most of them are pretty good poker players. In comparison to the environment at my previous job (a major Los Angeles hospital), the difference is night and day. The 9 to 5, dress code, non-profit corporate life has been replaced by a 10 to 7 jeans and sneakers world where profit and ROI drives decisions. My colleagues at the hospital shook their heads in disdain when they discovered that I was leaving the noble world of healthcare for the slightly less altruistic world of online poker, but I have to say that the environment is much more to my liking. At Full Tilt, original and creative thinking is valued and rewarded, unlike an environment where bureaucratic barriers slow change to a snail’s pace.
I’m sure a lot of people want to hear the “inside scoop” on online poker. Unfortunately, I have spent so much time wandering through the environments and getting comfortable with everything that I haven’t been able to see much other than my monitor. What I can say is that I am thoroughly impressed with Full Tilt’s fraud and collusion detection. I spoke briefly with the programmer in charge of developing the algorithms for detecting suspicious activity, and I was blown away by the thoroughness of the detection algorithms. I think everybody is afraid of being cheated online– personally I think that there must be lots of collusion at 5-10 and above– but it was comforting to see that some brilliant programmers are watching over the tables, at least at Full Tilt.
It was also pretty cool to chat with poker world champ Chris Ferguson around the water cooler (ok, it’s a fridge, but it sounder cooler that way). My sister sent me the following email:
“Isn’t it slightly ironic that you went from working at a Jewish hospital to working with Jesus?”
It’s been great to have the opportunity to swap ideas with Rafe “Tiltboy” Furst concerning new ideas for the site. Rafe seems to know a lot about everything I throw at him, so it’s no wonder he’s been successful at everything he’s tried.
But enough chit-chat. How about some poker?
On Saturday I returned to the monstrous Commerce Casino, to immerse myself in the action-packed games brought to us by the LA Poker Classic. No tourneys for me this week, just the good old-fashioned grind at a super soft 20-40 game. They don’t have a 15-30 there (no idea why), so the decision is between the $200 max buy in No-Limit game or $20-40. I’m a sucker for limit, so the choice was pretty easy… although probably wrong, since poker dealer extraordinaire OJ reported that a Hollywood Park regular had worked his $200 buy in up to $3000. No that is not a misprint. That’s how good the NL games are at Commerce these days.
OJ is a regular to the high limit games in LA, and we had an interesting discussion about 3-chip games vs. 4-chip games. Now for you online only players, this might be a bit surprising, but the action in games where a bet is 4 chips is considerably greater than a game where the bet is 3 chips. When that calling station looks at a pot, he does not see 6 Big Bets, he sees 48 chips in a 4 chip game and 36 chips in a 3 chips game. This makes the decision to fold that much harder, and makes the game that much better.
So the 20-40 was the first 4 chip game I’d played in a long, long, time, going all the way back to the 4-8 game at Hollywood Park. I wish it could have been a 10 chip game. I played for 3 hours. Here are just some of the hands I was dealt:
–Aces twice
–Queens twice
–Jacks once
–Flopped two sets with middle pairs
I was trying to will myself to get kings so I could hit for some sort of big pair cycle, but gave up in fear of angering the poker gods. They rewarded me with a 30 Big Bet night, and I even got home in time to get a good night’s sleep. It’s an easy game when the cards hit you in the head harder than the Pats linebackers (Ok, that’s the last of the cheesy analogies. Apologies).
It was a great session, although it didn’t take much skill to rake pots with those cards. On the way home I considered the myriad bad beats I’d taken in the past, and told myself that the fact that all my big pairs held up added balance to my poker history. The mythical “long run” seems a lot closer when your premium hands hold up.
I went to sleep thinking that poker is just like anything else in life. If you work hard at it, and put the time and effort in, you will be rewarded. Eventually, if you’re patient and focused, you’ll collect your 2 or 3 or maybe even 4 bets an hour while other players chase the hopes and dreams of a huge score. While that’s possible in tourneys, the spoils of the ring games go to those who calmly adjust to the rhythm of shuffling chips and dedicate themselves to the thoughtful grind.

The LA Poker Classic Rebuy Tourney

“It is only by following your deepest instinct that you can lead a rich life, and if you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct, then your life will be safe, expedient and thin.”
–Katharine Butler Hathaway
First off, congrats to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots for their win, proving that smart football and out-preparing the other team goes a long way. Billy B is hands down the best coach ever to walk the sidelines, and in a few years the NFL will be a totally different environment, full of film study, statistical tendencies, and positive EV gambles on third and short. Hats off to you, Mr. B.
Second, I’ll be moving my server over the next couple days, so this site may be down for a bit… If all goes well, the move should be complete by Wednesday.
It’s a bad sign when you find yourself blogging about the previous weekend’s action, but I’m going to blame it on my first week at a new job and a cross-town move. More on these later, but let’s pick up where we left off… last post, I’d had an excellent dinner with Al, Eva , Grubby, Grubette, Felica, and Glenn, and managed to catch some cards to win enough cash to buy in to Saturday’s $300 NL tourney. The ever-so-kind StudioGlyphic picked me up on Sunday afternoon (after his birthday celebration the night before!), and we hit the LA super highways and headed for the mighty Commerce for the LA Poker Classic.
I’m not a tourney player. Nor do I like rebuy tourneys. Nor did I like the field full of big names and deep pockets for this tournament. So what was I doing wasting my money on a tourney where everybody in their right mind was paying at least $900 to enter?
Good question. I guess the answer is that I’d never played in a big tourney, and it seemed like fun. I’d also gotten 3 weeks of vacation pay in my final paycheck a couple days before, but would have taken the vacation time in a heartbeat if I had the choice. So the tourney, while not much of a vacation, was an attempt at me treating myself to something nice between jobs.
I also have been vowing to work on my No Limit game for a while now, and as limit becomes more and more of a grind, I find myself naturally drawn to the world of unlimited sized bets. This seemed like a good opportunity (albeit a bit expensive) to work on my NL skills, as the tourney was drawing some excellent players, from both the amateur and pro ranks. But I still prefer limit.
The tourney structure was pretty ugly– unlimited rebuys for the first 3 levels (40 minutes each) and a single or double add on allowed at the break. I don’t think I’ve ever played in a live tourney where I didn’t do the add-on, but I wasn’t planning on putting $600 more into the prize pool. Start with 500 chips and the blinds are 10-15, which people griped about, but 33 big bets seemed like plenty to work with. 851 players entered, so I figured I was somewhere around 800-1 (not coincidentally, I believe these are the same odds as catching runner-runner perfect-perfect cards).
Rather than bore you with the painful details, here’s a quick summary of the tourney highlights:

  • I doubled up the second hand of the tourney: limped in with KQs, flop comes Q high, player to my right bets. I call, turn is a King, and he goes all in. I am afraid of a set of 5s, but call, and he shows QJ. I double up, he shouts, “Rebuy!”
  • I lose half my stack with AK when the ace hits on the turn and gives an aggressive player broadway. I bet the pot when the ace hit, and when he pushed in his stack of 500, I was pot committed. Sure enough he had KQ and had turned the nut straight. I hated my play here, and it was just too early in the tourney to risk that many chips when there were a ton of hands that could have beaten me. This was one of the “rookie mistakes” that I will stop making with some more experience. My table was great, so I reluctantly did the rebuy (justifying it by reminding myself that my winnings from the night before had paid for my initial buy in) to get me back up to about T900.
  • I worked my stack up to about 5000 mostly by being aggressive with middle pocket pairs.
  • My chip stack wasn’t too far below Amir Vahedi’s, who was at the table next to me. I kept hoping to stay ahead of Amir, but his stack seemed to have grown every time I looked over.
  • Just as I felt like I was starting to own the table, we broke and I was moved to a table with a bunch of players who looked very tough.
  • I asked The Italian Pirate (seated a couple tables to my left) if he knew anyone at my table, and he told me that the guy 2 seats to my right was a Scandinavian pro who had finished well in the WSOP. The rest were unknowns, which was somewhat comforting, but the table was pretty tight.
  • The table chip leader busted 6 players in a row when he was all in as an underdog in a span of about 30 minutes. He had about 30K in chips. The rest of the table combined was somewhere around 25K. Of course, he was 3 seats to my right and raised nearly every pot.
  • The blinds kept increasing and my cards went dead at the worst possible time. I was able to steal the blinds a couple times, but couldn’t get the monster stack to call me with my best hand, pocket tens. The blinds slowly ate me up until I pushed with 44, and chip leader put me out of my misery with his pocket nines.

Final tally: 881 players. 955 rebuys. 458 add-ons.
Prize pool – $662,554.
I finished with about 19 tables remaining, so that puts me around 200th with only one rebuy. More importantly, I was pretty happy with the way I played– I felt like I remained focused for nearly the entire tourney (all 6 hours I was alive), and made a couple big plays when the opportunities presented themselves. I did make 2 mistakes that were mainly from lack of experience, but overall I was happy with my play. But my No-Limit game still needs plenty of work…
Captain Obvious’ lesson of the day: Tourneys are more fun than cash games but far less profitable (in terms of EV). Cash games are far less fun and far more profitable.
I was glad to meet Absinthe on Saturday. His smart and cynical perspective was refreshing, and I have some more reading to catch up on. I also briefly met Obituarium, who has a DEADLY sense of humor. The folks from Las Vegas Vegas made the drive out, and it’s always a pleasure chatting with the Joes (jr. and sr.) and Foiledcoup. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to speak with them for as long as I’d like, as their visit was cut short by some unfortunate circumstances. I expect we’ll soon get the full story from the Vegasites themselves…
This was the second time I’d played at Commerce with the blogger trio of StudioGlyphic, FHWDRH, and Bill. Mix in a little Al and Eva, and a dash of Grubby, and it makes for some interesting No Limit action. I bounced around the No Limit tables trying to keep up with the blogger chip stacks, but after the tourney, my brain felt like mush.
I did witness Bill playing the maniac and splashing the pot in some great acting as he sat behind a tower of $5 chips in the $200 NL game. He shocked the table by checking the flop, and was able to catch his card on the turn, punishing the table and cackling as he raked another big pot. A quick look at the rolling eyes of the other players indicated that the table’s tiltmeter was nearing maximum level. Note to self: sit with Bill at Commerce.
I was exhausted from the tournament, and attempted to play some NL, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I said my goodbyes, and hit the road, wondering what the next week would bring. The Commerce tourney and blogger meet-up was a strange way to end an important chapter in my life.
A new apartment and a new job at Full Tilt Poker kicked off the next chapter, but a recap will have to wait until next post. I’ll leave you with a few links to keep you busy in the meantime…

  • Poker Wire is a live tournament update site from the good people at Full Tilt. Check it out for live updates for LA Poker Classic updates at Commerce.
  • I got an email from DG at Texans for Poker asking for some support for the cause. If you play poker and live in Texas, check out their site and get involved. These guys (along with the infamous Dan M. of Pokerati) are pushing for the legalization of poker in Texas. It is called TEXAS hold em after all.
  • I received a link to this blog in the mail and thought it was worthy to pass on. Check out Jen’s writeup of her performance in a tourney in Australia. I hope she continues to post.
  • The great Andy Prock has broken new ground in poker Artificial Intelligence. Check out his food for neural networks in his summary of poker action categories. Although this may seem common sense to you non-AI people out there, Mr. Prock is actually laying the groundwork for some very interesting analysis here. I look forward to the results…
  • Congrats to DoubleAs and Otis for finishing 2nd and 3rd in the Empire 10K guaranteed tourney on Friday night. I was amazed to see 2 bloggers at the final table, but it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. DoubleAs is probably the best NL playing blogger (at least from what I’ve seen), and when Otis isn’t writing superb posts, he plays a mean tournament. Congrats to both, and I’m sure we’ll see more victories in the future. Players like them make me glad I stick to cash games…
  • And last but not least, we have the heartwarming story of The Film Geek. The young punk had the audacity to guarantee victory in the Party Poker Million qualifier, despite relatively little No-Limit tournament experience. And then he had the further audacity to make good on his guarantee. Check out his superb tourney writeup. It illustrates the excitement involved in playing tournament poker, especially when you’ve got nothing to lose. I was able to sweat Chris for most of the tournament, and was quite impressed by some of the moves he made. A tip of the cap to you, Film Geek.

Whew. That’s enough for Super Bowl Sunday. Learn from the Pats– bring your A game and always come to the table prepared. Thanks for reading.

Poker Bloggers invade Commerce

“Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling in them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used.”
–Richard E. Byrd
I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for about 3 weeks now, but things finally seem to be settling down a bit, so I thought I’d throw up a quick post for anybody who’s interested. After two and a half years of accumulating mental and physical dust working for the hospital, I finally stood up and brushed myself off. This week was filled with the new and different– a new job and a new home, both of them much more enjoyable than the old. I’m still getting adjusted, but the change is good, and forces me to put my foot on the accelerator rather than taking advantage of the inertia that grows after 2 years doing the same thing.
Anyway, I’m exhausted, but here is a quick summary of the past week:
–12 PM: Finish the project I’ve been working on for 2 years. I’m ecstatic because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get it done, but the wrinkles seemed to iron themselves out at the last minute and I was able to leave the job with a sense of closure and completion.
–7 PM: Pick up Al and Eva of the Can’t Hang Clan at LAX. We head to Commerce and end up having a 3 hour dinner which was filled with top-notch poker bloggers and many SoCo double shots (thankfully yours truly was driving). The infamous slotmaster was the first to join us after a 5 hour drive in from the city of sin. Next came Glenn and Felicia, fresh from crushing the satellites all day. And last but not least came Grubette, who had reluctantly left a soft Omaha game.
As I happily enjoyed my prize for almost guessing Grubette’s hand in an earlier hand of the week, I sat back and enjoyed the conversation. I can’t remember all the topics of conversation, but you can’t go wrong when everybody at the table is smart and funny. I particulary enjoyed discussing the traditionally “degenerate” forms of gambling with Grubby… we ran the gamut of conversation from online blackjack to the EV of slots tourneys, and concluded… absolutely nothing.
–1 AM: Play some $100 NL with Eva, Al, and Grubby. I manage to double up twice against the table maniac, and he promptly takes his maniac ball and goes home. After that the table was tighter than Dutch Boyd’s bank account, so I headed for greener pastures.
And found them at the 20-40 game in the next room over. After watching my buddy Shawn crush the 40-80 game for a bit upon entering the casino, I was inspired, and managed to win a couple big pots to earn my buy in for Saturday’s tourney. Unfortunately the table broke soon after (I was about to fall asleep anyway), so I racked up my chips and headed for home, excited for the tourney tomorrow.
Apologies, but brevity is the soul of wit. Plus I’m exhausted.
Of course, Al’s writeup is far better than mine. I’m going to take the liberty of stealing my favorite parts rather than actually writing something original.
Oddly enough, at 2am-ish on a Friday night, there was no waiting for the $100 NLHE game (2/3 blinds). Weird game considering the min-raise to get any respect pre-flop was in the $20 range.
I took the 7s with Grubby already occupying the 4s(?). To Grubby’s left was the biggest maniac to ever earn the title. At the $100 max buy-in game, he had to have at least a grand sitting in front on him. He gave no worries to the size of the pot. Once HDub took the 10s, we actually witnessed maniac man push $50 in UTG to pull $4 (Commerce rakes a buck from the small blind immediately upon posting).
The guy was nuts and the entire table was waiting to catch a hand to get a piece of his stack. HDub was the lottery winner in back-to-back hands. The first one when maniac pushed Hank all-in with an AJx flop. Hank thought for a while, mentioned he thought he was probably beat, but called anyway. Maniac had nothing except second pair and Hank doubles up. The very next hand Maniac limps in with KK and gets crushed by Hanks Q8 when two 8’s hit the flop.

Note: I’d set the maniac up by folding pocket tens to his big flop raise a couple hands before. After re-raising maniac to $50 preflop with TT, I checked the Q J x flop and mucked when maniac bet $50 on the turn. I may have been good here, but I think this play set him up for his all in bluff on the hand mentioned here. I limped with ATo and called his all-in on a A J 5 flop. I was worried about 55 or even J5, but I felt like I was good. He showed a J as he mucked, and the next hand he limped with KK only to have me flop trip 8s. Thank you maniac.
Another double up for Hank. Maniac decided he was taking his ball and going home. Hank took off for the super juicy 20/40 game. But not before the hand…..
(and I’m sure he’s tired of hearing this story)

Note: I am tired of hearing it. And now I have to read it.

As he is getting ready to leave he decided to play on more hand. In the BB, I look down to find a beautiful diamond-hearted red Hammer. A couple of limpers and I raise because I know that you must voluntarily put money in pre-flop to qualify as a proper Hammer hand.
Hank calls and I believe one other. When the flop comes out 7 high, I bet out and everyone folds. Hank just chuckled when I flipped over the Hammer. He grabbed his chips and went searching for bigger fish. About two hands later, the guy to my left asked me if I realized the 72o is the worst starting hand. I’m still not sure if he bought my response, “Oh really?”

Note: Al played this perfectly, raising from the BB after I limped in with AJ. I put him on a middle pair, and never considered the hammer. I guess I haven’t been playing enough at the blogger table. Anyway, I felt like someone had pulled my pants down when Al showed the hammer. I promise revenge…

After a couple more hours of play, a beat up (but richer) HDub shows up and we call it a night/morning. 6:30am body time and I’m not feeling that tired. The next day, tourney time!

Next up:
–More bloggers
–Surviving the Pros
–A 4 hour Move
–My First week on Full Tilt